Champlain Township Clerk Alison Collard reported to Champlain council on new rules governing closed meetings for municipal councils and local boards and the actual definition of a meeting, following changes to the Ontario Municipal Act and more specifically, Bill 68.
Bill 68 proposed a new definition of a meeting based on two criteria: quorum and materially advancing the business of council.
Four new exceptions to the current seven exceptions permitting meetings were added by Bill 68.
New exceptions which permit closed meetings include: information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a  Crown agency of any of them; a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to significantly prejudice the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value, or
a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board.
The seven existing exceptions to the open meeting rule are as follows; closed-session meetings are permitted if they are related to the security of the property of the municipality or local board, to discuss personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees, are related to a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board, discussions have to do with labour relations or employee negotiations, litigation or potential litigation, or contain advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, matters related to consideration of a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or is a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act, or for educational or training sessions.
Also new is the requirement for municipalities to address closed meeting investigations. For example, if a report from a meeting investigator concludes that a municipality’s processes or procedures for deciding when to go into closed session are deficient, that municipality may want to pass a resolution that describes how they will improve those deficient systems.
Finally, Bill 68 will allow councillors and members of local boards to participate in meetings electronically. However, councillors who participate in a meeting electronically cannot be counted towards quorum. There must be an in-person quorum of councillors for a meeting to proceed.
Councillors or members of local boards are only permitted to participate electronically in meetings that are open to the public. Participating in closed session meetings will remain limited to those councillors or members of a local board who are participating in-person.